Monday, March 28, 2016
When rock band Queen asked us “Who wants to live forever?” back in 1986, we interpreted it as standard lyrical rhetoric. But now, three decades and what feels like light years in technological, medical, and scientific advances later, the answer to that age-old question may have changed. And according to Ray Kurzweil, the famous American inventor who has been described as the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison,” we’re nearing immortality.
As the man responsible for the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer, and much more, Kurzweil has a knack for spotting trends and anticipating the future. And if history is any indication (and his word stays true), we may be in for a long, long lifetime.
In an episode of PBS’s News Hour last week, Kurzweil noted that death, which he describes as “a great robber of meaning, of relationships, of knowledge,” will soon be conquered. Indeed, the futurist notes, our species will soon be able to defeat disease and degeneration, and live “indefinitely.”
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Reflecting on the massive leaps and bounds technology has made in the last few years, Kurzweil says that immortality is no longer a pipe dream. While we’ve spent the last several millennia rationalizing death, Kurzweil says, we no longer have to resign ourselves to this supposedly inevitable fate. Referring to the “exponential growth of information technology,” the inventor also predicted the appearance of computers the size of blood cells in the not so distant future, which would be able to make their way through our bodies and connect to the cloud. All this, he says, is a “2030 scenario.”
It’s all, in a strange way, part of the cycle of life, Kurzweil suggests. After all, as the human race has progressed, we’ve continuously extended our life expectancy — naturally, the next step is an essentially infinite number of years. In 10 or 15 years, he claims, we’ll be able to all but eliminate breakdowns in the body, or at the very least, depend less upon the physical self. Our thinking will reside partially in the cloud, allowing us to spread out our existence over various media. “If part of it gets wiped away, we’ll be able to re-create it,” he says.
So live your best life now; soon enough, it may be one that lasts into eternity.